Those in favour of the proposed amendments to the Agriculture Bill, put forward by MPs Simon Hoare and Neil Parish, must now look towards the House of Lords to put pressure on the Government to adopt these new proposals.

The National Sheep Association (NSA) has supported the amendments, highlighting its concern over the rejection of the proposals for the Agriculture Bill to legally require equivalence of standards for imported foods.

With these amendments being defeated in a vote by a margin of 149 on Wednesday (May 13) in the House of Commons, the bill is now likely to go to the House of Lords possibly by the first week of June and then back to Commons in early July.

NSA chief executive Phil Stocker commented: “With the Government's manifesto commitment to protect and not compromise on our environmental and animal welfare standard in trade deals, it is highly concerning that they will not cement this in legislation.

The pledge, after all, is one that stands for the term of this Government; however, this commitment needs to be far more permanent than that.

"This amendment is at the top of the list that NSA, and no doubt a good number of peers within the House of Lords will be keen to examine in more detail as the Bill begins its journey in the Lords.

Stocker also stated that the NSA is firmly behind calls for a standards commission to take responsibility for decisions over the equivalence of international produce destined for import tot he UK.

'Lack of unity'

The NSA has also highlighted its concerns over the "lack of unity" over the subject of food and farming and international trade.

Stocker added: "Decisions could be made without the benefit of the completion of our national food strategy.

Reading some of the comments made by MPs in the debate on Wednesday it is still clear that there are entirely opposing views on our future relating to food self-sufficiency and security, and international trade.

“Of course, there is a balance that has to be struck and exports are a crucial part of our industry that help keep prices up and enable full product utilisation.

“One thing we must learn from the recent Covid-19 problems is that food security and resilient supply chains are equal in importance to environmental protection and climate change," he said.